Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
Crooks v. Dept. of Natural Res.
In 1962, the United States began constructing various structures in and around the Catahoula Basin pursuant to a congressionally-approved navigation project under the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to promote navigation on the Ouachita and Black Rivers. In conjunction with that project, the State of Louisiana signed an “Act of Assurances,” which obligated the State to provide the federal government with all lands and property interests necessary to the project free of charge, and to indemnify the federal government from any damages resulting from the project. In 2006, plaintiffs Steve Crooks and Era Lea Crooks filed a “Class Action Petition to Fix Boundary, For Damages and For Declaration [sic] Judgment.” The Crookses alleged they represented a class of landowners in the Catahoula Basin whose property was affected by increased water levels from the project. Ultimately, the trial court certified the plaintiffs as one class, but subdivided that class into two groups – the “Lake Plaintiffs” and the “Swamp Plaintiffs” – depending on the location of the properties affected. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims for compensation against the State were prescribed under La. R.S. 13:5111 and/or 28 U.S.C. 2501. The lower courts relied on the decision in Cooper v. Louisiana Department of Public Works, 870 So. 2d 315 (2004), to conclude the one-year prescriptive period for damage to immovable property found in La. C.C. art. 3493 governed, and the continuing tort doctrine applied to prevent the running of prescription on the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in relying on Cooper and held that the three-year prescriptive period for actions for compensation for property taken by the state set forth in La. R. S. 13:5111 governed and the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims were prescribed. View "Crooks v. Dept. of Natural Res." on Justia Law
St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist. v. Violet Dock Port, Inc.
Although the Louisiana Constitution generally restricts the government from expropriating private property, it provides broad exceptions for public port authorities. The Constitution provides that the government can expropriate property for “[p]ublic ports . . . to facilitate the transport of goods or persons in domestic or international commerce.” The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this matter to determine whether St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District’s (the “Port”) expropriation of property owned by Violet Dock Port, Inc., L.L.C. (“Violet”) on the Mississippi River satisfied the “public purpose” requirement of art. I, section 4(B)(1) of the Louisiana Constitution and, further, whether it violated the business enterprise clause of art. I, section 4(B)(6). The Court found the record demonstrated that the Port’s expropriation was for the public purpose “to facilitate the transport of goods or persons in domestic or international commerce” and not for the constitutionally prohibited purpose of operating Violet’s enterprise or halting competition with a government enterprise. Therefore, the Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment that the expropriation was constitutional. However, the Supreme Court also found the trial court made a legal error in setting the just compensation due to Violet under art. I, section 4(B)(1), and further found the court of appeal failed to correct that error. This case was remanded to the court of appeal solely for the purpose of fixing the amount of just compensation based on the evidence in the record and in accordance with the principles discussed by the Supreme Court in this opinion. View "St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist. v. Violet Dock Port, Inc." on Justia Law
South Lafourche Levee Dist. v. Jarreau
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana legislature in 2006 passed Act 853 and Act 567, which amended the laws governing compensation for levee servitude appropriations with a particular focus on appropriations for use in hurricane protection projects. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter for three purposes: (1) to interpret specific provisions of the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42, and La. R.S. 38:281(3) and (4); (2) to determine the amount of compensation that was due a property owner whose property was appropriated by a levee district pursuant to a permanent levee servitude for use in a hurricane protection project; and (3) to determine whether La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) or La. R.S. 13:5111 governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee servitude appropriation dispute. The Court held the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42 and 38:281(3) and (4) reduced, rather than eliminated, the measure of damages to be paid to a property owner for the taking of, or loss or damage to, property rights for the construction, enlargement, improvement, or modification of hurricane protection projects from “full extent of the loss” to the more restrictive “just compensation” measure required by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was the fair market value of the property at the time of the appropriation, based on the current use of the property, before the proposed appropriated use, and without allowing for any change in value caused by levee construction. Furthermore, the Court held La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee appropriation dispute. View "South Lafourche Levee Dist. v. Jarreau" on Justia Law
Borja v. Fara St. Bernard Parish Gov’t
Claimant Richard Borja, was employed by St. Bernard Parish Government (“St. Bernard”) as a firefighter. In March of 2004, claimant filed a disputed claim for compensation alleging that he had injured his right knee and right thumb in an accident in 2002, and he also alleged he had an occupational disease. He described his injuries on the 2004 disputed claim for compensation as a “torqued knee” and “Heart and Lung,” indirectly referencing the Fireman’s Heart and Lung Act. After the accident, the claimant began receiving maximum workers’ compensation benefits, which continued until St. Bernard terminated them one year later. In the meantime, claimant had taken disability retirement in January 2003. The disputed claim form was filed within one year of the termination of the benefits. St. Bernard ultimately admitted that claimant had sustained an injury to his right knee, but disputed any thumb injury as well as any heart and lung claims as being related to his employment, stating that it did not know about the injuries, or that alternatively, they were prescribed. While St. Bernard conceded the claimant had been receiving the maximum benefits from the date of the accident until January 2003, it also maintained that because the claimant voluntarily retired in that month, he had removed himself from the workforce and was no longer entitled to future workers’ compensation benefits. Throughout the 2004 litigation, claimant had consistently argued that his heart and lung conditions were related to his employment. The dispute eventually went to mediation, which resulted in a compromise that claimant would receive back compensation payments in two lump sums, bringing him current to 2008, and that he would receive weekly indemnity benefits which were the maximum claimant could receive at that time. By October 2008, claimant moved dismiss the 2004 litigation noting “that this matter has been settled in full.” By 2013, St. Bernard, identifying the claimant’s benefits as Supplemental Earnings Benefits (“SEBs”), gave notice that it would terminate SEBs effective August 27, 2013, on the basis that he would have received the full 520 weeks of payments. In November 2013, claimant filed another disputed claim for compensation citing “knees, heart and lung” as his injuries. Specifically, he described his 2002 injury to the knee. St. Bernard filed exceptions of prescription and res judicata. A workers’ compensation judge granted the exception of res judicata for the knee injury, and granted the exception of prescription as to the claim under the “Heart and Lung Statute.” On appeal, a majority of the court of appeal affirmed in an unpublished opinion. After its review, the Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in concluding the claimant’s request for medical benefits under the heart and lung statute had prescribed because claimant timely filed his 2013 disputed claim asserting permanent and total disability as a result of his heart and lung condition. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s judgment affirming the workers’ compensation judge’s rulings sustaining the exception of prescription and the exception of res judicata. View "Borja v. Fara St. Bernard Parish Gov't" on Justia Law
Silver Dollar Liquor, LLC. v. Red River Parish Police Jury
Plaintiff Silver Dollar Liquor, L.L.C. ("Silver Dollar") owns the Silver Dollar Liquor Store located within District 6 of Red River Parish. Silver Dollar filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendant Red River Parish Police Jury ("Police Jury"), seeking to have Section 3-18 declared invalid because there has never been a local option election in District 6 pursuant to La. R.S. 51:191. The Police Jury answered that it had authority under La. R.S. 26:493 to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages. Relying on La. R.S. 26:493, the appellate court found in favor of the Police Jury, holding Section 3-18 to be valid. Finding the appellate court's decision created a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court granted Silver Dollar's certiorari application to resolve the split. Upon review, the Court surmised the heart of this case involved the interpretation and applicability of La. R.S. 51:191, which requires a local-option election in order to authorize a Sunday-closing law; and La. R.S. 26:493, which delegates to political subdivisions the power to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages. After review, the Court affirmed the appellate court's decision.